PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Warriors stumble but do not fall out of top spot

Associated Press

The Lakers beat the Warriors, and frankly San Antonio has been better than Golden State of late, but I’m still not ready to slide the Warriors out of the top spot in NBC’s NBA power rankings. But it’s getting close. Cleveland is back up to third, and if this were cryptic tweet rankings the Cavaliers would be in the top slot.

source: 1. Warriors (55-6, last week No. 1). The truth is that for a few weeks now the Warriors have been good but not great, playing closer to the level of their opponents and getting bailed out by Stephen Curry’s shooting. That ended Sunday when Curry couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean. Still, this team has yet to lose to the elite of either conference. They need to go 18-3 to beat the Jordan Bulls’ 72-win record.

source: 2. Spurs (53-9, LW 2). The Spurs have won eight in a row and they have Manu Ginobili healthy and back on the bench. They have been a better team than the Warriors the last 10 games (they were +6.2 per 100 possessions better over their last 10 before Sunday’s GSW loss). Interesting test against the Thunder — a tough matchup for the Spurs — Saturday night.

source: 3. Cavaliers (44-17, LW 4). Winners of three in a row and 7-of-10, but LeBron James isn’t happy and is sending out cryptic tweets aimed at someone in the locker room. Notice that Channing Frye is already slid basically out of the rotation? Interesting game next Sunday against the Clippers.

source: 4. Clippers (40-21, LW 3). It was their usually unimpressive bench that sparked the dramatic comeback against the Thunder Wednesday night, something that is a good sign. Another good sign, Blake Griffin is getting closer to a return. Seven of their next nine are on the road, if they are going to catch the Thunder for the three seed (they are two games back) they need to hold their own through this tough stretch.

source: 5. Raptors (41-20, LW 6). They are 2-1 so far into a seven-game homestead, with poor three-point defense and no answer for James Harden costing them Sunday. Toronto feels locked into the two seed, they are three back of the Cavaliers (don’t see them making that up without help from the Cavs) and are six up in the loss column on third-seed Boston.

source: 6. Thunder (43-20 LW 5). They have lost six of nine — including blowing a 22-point lead against the Clippers — and with that have come the questions (including the ones about Kevin Durant this summer). But after that Clipper loss Billy Donovan put it well — every great team has to face adversity, this is ours. It’s up to the team how they handle it. Big tests against the Clippers and Spurs this week to see just how they deal with adversity.

source: 7. Celtics (38-26, LW 7). Is Boston going to win a round in the playoffs? Not the way they blew that lead against Cleveland last week. If it started today they would get Charlotte in the first round and that is far from a pushover, and now a hot Miami team is just half a game back of them.

source: 8. Heat (37-26, LW 10). They have the fourth best defense in the NBA over their last 10 games and are 8-2 since the All-Star break. Joe Johnson can get a little credit for that, but it’s more about the defense and scoring inside. Good tests on the road at Chicago and Toronto this week.

source: 9. Hawks (35-28, LW 8). They continue to get wins with lock-down defense and enough offense to get the job done — they swept the two teams in Los Angeles last week. Interesting game at Toronto this week.

source: 10. Hornets (33-28, LW 12). This is when the Hornets look dangerous — Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum combined for 64 points in beating the Pacers. Charlotte has been playing good defense and has the second best net rating in the NBA over their last 10 games (Spurs).

source: 11. Grizzlies (37-25, LW 11). No Marc Gasol, no Courtney Lee, I keep expecting this team to slide but they had won three in a row before Sunday. This team has one of the toughest schedules down the stretch but they have enough cushion to make the playoffs without a collapse. And there is no sign of that.

source: 12. Trail Blazers (33-30, LW 9). Losers of three in a row, and their schedule gets tough down the stretch (including facing the Warriors this week). However, they have a three-game cushion over Utah for one of the final playoff spots in the West (Houston is in that mix also).

source: 13. Mavericks (33-30, LW 13). .Tough losses to Sacramento and Denver in their last two games, a rough couple games after a strong homestead. The good news for Dallas is Chandler Parsons has played fantastic hoops of late, the bad news is their defense is 25th in the NBA in their last 10 games. They have a difficult schedule to close out the season, but with a 3.5 game cushion I see them making the playoffs.

source: 14. Pacers (33-30, LW 14). Ty Lawson is officially a member of the Pacers — their bench has struggled of late so Indiana bet he could help. If he plays like he did in Houston he won’t but in a contract year maybe he turns it around. Tough week with the Spurs, Mavericks and Hawks ahead.

source: 15. Bulls (31-30, LW 19).Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup and looked good on both ends of the court Saturday (only 6 of James Harden’s 36 points came with Butler on him). The Bulls needed that win after having lost 9-of-12 before that, if they are going to hold on to the eight seed they need more wins like that one.

source: 16. Pistons (32-31, LW 15). When Reggie Jackson goes off — like he did for 30 against Portland Sunday — the Pistons have enough offense to make the playoffs. It’s just not consistent. Tobias Harris is fitting in quickly on the offensive end as well.

source: 17. Rockets (31-32, LW 16). Good luck figuring this team out: they look terrible in a loss to the Bulls (particularly Dwight Howard, who had looked great against the Bucks when they finally got him the rock), then the next night they beat the Raptors in Toronto. By the way Rockets fans, Michael Beasley is not going to help you.

source: 18. Wizards (30-32, LW 17). Bradley Beal is back in the starting lineup as the team makes one last push for a final playoff spot (they are just 1.5 games back). Washington’s advantage down the stretch is they have a softer schedule than Indiana, Chicago, or Detroit — but they still need to rack up wins.

source: 19. Jazz (29-33, LW 18). They needed that win in New Orleans Saturday to snap a five-game losing streak at the worst possible time for a team with playoff aspirations. Injuries have sapped their bench, which is a weakness, and this team just needs to find a way to score points consistently.

source: 20. Bucks (26-37, LW 21). The Bucks aren’t making the playoffs but there are reasons to feel optimistic of late, with Giannis Antetokounmpo thriving in a point-forward role and Jabari Parker getting his groove back. Expect some roster shake-ups this summer, specifically sending Michael Carter-Williams out the door.

source: 21. Magic (27-34, LW 20). There have been flashes of things to like, such as Aaron Gordon at five, but if Orlando’s brass made their deadline moves (bringing in Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings) because they wanted to make a playoff push, that has failed miserably.

source: 22. Timberwolves (20-43,LW 24). If you’re looking for positives, Karl-Anthony Towns is not only scoring but his passing has improved of late. If you’re looking for wins, a week with a hot Charlotte team followed by San Antonio and Oklahoma City is a rough way to go.

source: 23. Knicks (26-38, LW 26). When talking about Carmelo Anthony waiving his no-trade clause remember this — his trade kicker is worth a lot more to him this summer when the salary cap spikes than it was previous seasons. It’s amazing how some green can open one’s mind to new possibilities. On the court, this team has won four of it’s last 20 and that has to have ‘Melo thinking of greener pastures.

source: 24. Nuggets (25-38, LW 25). They continue to play sneaky good ball, as we saw in the win over Dallas Sunday. D.J. Augustin is a part of that, giving them solid play at the point when the improving Emmanuel Mudiay is not out there.

source: 25. Kings (25-36, LW 23). George Karl is still struggling to find lineups that work consistently — but of late Ben McLemore seems to be in fewer of them as his minutes are dwindling (but he still starts). They are still searching for a day-to-day GM to work with Vlade Divac, and this summer you know a coaching change is coming.

source: 26. Pelicans (23-38, LW 22). Eric Gordon broke his finger again, which finally should push Jrue Holiday into the starting lineup where he should have been for a while. Like the Kings above them, look for some front office changes this summer, with roster changes around Anthony Davis to follow.

source: 27. Nets (18-45, LW 27). They have done better than one would have expected on their long road trip, having done 3-4 so far (and one loss came to Minnesota when both Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez were rested). They have two games left on the trip, at Toronto and Philadelphia (the Nets player the Sixers twice still).

source: 28. Suns (17-46, LW 28). They have won three of five games and snapped their 17-game road losing streak by beating Orlando over the weekend. Alex Len has been playing well, giving Phoenix what they hoped they would get from Tyson Chandler this season.

source: 29. Lakers (12-51, LW 29). D’Angelo Russell’s improved play has come with his improved shooting (which opened up passing lanes and makes his hesitation moves more of a threat). He’s creating shots and he is looking like a strong pick (but he still has a lot of work to do on the defensive end).

source: 30. 76ers (8-54, LW 30). They have lost 12 in a row, mostly because their formerly stout defense has been terrible (while the offense hasn’t been too bad). The Sixers have had three losing streaks of at least 11 games this season, which is two more than every other NBA team combined.

Bradley Beal reportedly under investigation after confrontation with fan who lost gambling

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

On March 21, Bradley Beal had an off game — 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting — as the Wizards fell to the Magic in Orlando.

Walking off the court, Beal got into a confrontation with a couple of fans, one of whom blamed him for a gambling loss. The next day that incident became a complaint filed with the Orlando Police Department by the fan. David Purdum of ESPN summarized the police report this way:

Beal and the Wizards were exiting the court and in the visitors’ tunnel, headed to the locker room, when, according to the police report, an unidentified man remarked to Beal, “You made me lose $1,300, you f***.”

Beal, according to the report, turned around and walked toward a friend of the man who made the comment and swatted his right hand toward him, knocking the man’s hat off and contacting the left side of his head.

Police reviewed video footage of the altercation and heard Beal say this is his job and he takes it seriously, and the man is heard apologizing, implying he did not intend to offend him, according to the report.

At this point, no charges have been filed against Beal. According to TMZ, Beal told the heckler, “Keep it a buck. I don’t give a f*** about none of your bets or your parlays, bro. That ain’t why I play the game.” The entire incident lasted less than a minute.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “We are aware of the report and are in the process of gathering more information.”

Sports betting is not currently legal in the state of Florida.

While there is nothing official from the team, speculation abounds that the Wizards have shut down Beal and Kyle Kuzma for the season.


Trail Blazers shut down Lillard for season… and here comes the trade speculation


While it was unofficial but understood for some time, now it is official: Damian Lillard has been shut down for the season. Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (who has close ties to the Lillard camp) Tweeted out the news.

The Blazers are five games out of the final play-in spot with seven games to play, they aren’t making up that ground. They are tied for the fifth-worst record in the league, which comes with a 10.5% chance at the top pick and Victor Wembanyama. This was the right play.

Before it became official, Shams Charania at The Athletic wrote in “The Bounce” newsletter Monday that Lillard is “essentially” shut down for the season – and then lit a fire under the topic that makes Trail Blazers’ fans’ eyes roll:

Damian Lillard trade talk.

On the other side of things, you now have to wonder if Lillard ever steps on the court again for Portland. There was a ton of optimism going into this season after the team landed Jerami Grant and got off to a good start to the campaign. Now, not making the playoffs for a second year in a row, a soon-to-be 33-year-old star of this league who has never gotten a chance to win it all will have tons of questions to ask the front office this offseason, and I expect there to be serious conversations about what’s next for both sides.

We all knew the Lillard trade speculation was coming. Same with Bradley Beal in Washington. The same core rule applies to both of them:

Lillard will not get traded unless he asks to be moved. He has never done so, in fact saying just weeks ago about playing the rest of his career in Portland, “To that point, I’m also willing to die on that hill.” Portland has been loyal to him and Lillard signed a massive contract extension last offseason and has four years, $216.2 million left on that deal, including about $63.2 million in the contract’s final season when he is 36. He’s happy where he is and has deep roots in the community.

The odds are better than not that Lillard will retire a Trail Blazer, even if that’s not the path other stars would walk. Lillard is wired differently.

Can you construct an argument that the Trail Blazers should trade Lillard while his value is sky-high — he will be an All-NBA player again this season — because the organization’s best path to a ring is with whoever and whatever’s next? Maybe. However, that ignores the financial reality of the Blazers — Lillard brings the fans in the door, brings in team sponsors who want to be associated with him, and he sells jerseys. Lillard is good business for Portland, there is no incentive for ownership to move on right now.

In fact, it may be the opposite. Portland can throw multiple picks and good young players such as Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons into a trade to bring in another star to play with Lillard. That is more how their front office pictures this summer — they want to go all in on building around Lillard. Not sending him away.

Other teams covet Lillard, and trade packages can be constructed (would Miami be willing to move on from Bam Adebayo for the chance to pair Lillard with Jimmy Butler?). But it’s all idle talk until Lillard sits down with franchise ownership/management and says it’s time for him to move on. That has yet to happen. It may well never happen.

Just expect the avalanche of Lillard speculation to begin. Warranted or not.

Three things to Know: Timberwolves in top six, are they a playoff sleeper?


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Timberwolves beat Kings, move into in top six, could be playoff sleeper

When talk turns to dangerous teams in the bottom half of the West bracket, the conversation gravitates toward the established big names — Stephen Curry and the Warriors, LeBron James and the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers.

But for the past few weeks (maybe since the All-Star break), the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the best team in that group. It hasn’t always shown up in the win column — although after beating the Kings Monday night they have four in a row — but there has been maturity and chemistry to their game. Fitting Karl-Anthony Towns back in after he missed more than 50 games could have been tricky, but instead, it has inspired game-winning shots and improved play (although he sat out Monday night on a back-to-back).

Monday night’s win is nothing to overlook — going to Sacramento and picking up a victory that denied the Kings the chance to officially clinch their first playoff spot in 16 seasons in front of their home fans is no small thing. The Timberwolves were attacking the rim.

And attacking.

“We know we have the talent and the personnel to be able to beat anybody on any given night,” Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert said, via the Associated Press. “Really out of urgency and consistency … we play every game like it’s our last and we play every game like there’s no tomorrow. That’s the mindset that we need.”

Minnesota is showing a balance and maturity of game that was lacking much of the season. It starts with trading away D'Angelo Russell and bringing in Mike Conley at the point, adding a traditional point guard and floor general to the mix (rather than a player who creates more for themselves). Conley’s veteran presence can be felt across this team.

Jaden McDaniels has been locking guys down on defense. Anthony Edwards — back quickly from a sprained ankle that could have been much worse — has turned into a quality shot creator but adds another athletic defender. Gobert finally started to find his space and had 16 points and 16 rebounds against the Kings. Naz Ried has been a force of nature off the bench lately.

With the win, Minnesota tied Golden State for the No.6 seed in the West at 39-37, and moved ahead of the Warriors officially because the Timberwolves have the tiebreaker after beating them Sunday. This Minnesota team could avoid the play-in if they keep racking up wins — and if they are the No.6 seed they likely draw this Kings team in the first round.

The questions about how this team will handle a small-ball team that can space the floor over a seven-game series remain, but they showed Monday against the Kings they may have the answer to that question.

The most dangerous teams in the playoffs are often the ones that look the best over the season’s final weeks, and in this Western Conference that makes the Timberwolves a threat.

2) Luka Dončić with the assist of the season.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Luka Dončić made the pass of the season Monday night. Trapped in the corner by two defenders, Dončić lept in the air, spun and threw a bullet skip pass to Jaden Hardy for 3.

Even Dončić was impressed with that dime.

The Mavericks entered the night desperate for a win after losing four straight, they needed the win to try to climb back into the play-in. Dončić wasn’t even expected to be on the court earlier in the day, but was cleared to play earlier when the NBA rescinded his 16th technical of the season, which would have triggered an automatic one-game suspension. With 25 points from Dončić leading the way, the Mavericks beat a shorthanded Pacers team without Tyrese Haliburton or Myles Turner, 127-104.

3) Jalen Brunson was out so Immanuel Quickley dropped 40

Losers of three straight, and with the Heat lurking just a couple of games back in the loss column, the Knicks needed a win. Enter the Houston Rockets.

Jalen Brunson remained out but Immanuel Quickley stepped up with a career-high 40 points on 14-of-18 shooting, plus he had nine assists, and the Knicks picked up a needed 137-115 victory.

Julius Randle added 26 points, RJ Barrett had 19 and Obi Toppin finished with 15 for the Knicks. New York was moving the ball and finished with a season-high 35 assists.

It was exactly the kind of win the Knicks needed. It’s hard to see them falling out of the No. 5 seed.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Are you kidding me, Russell Westbrook?

The Clippers got the 124-112 win over the Bulls without that shot, but still.

Watch Luka Dončić throw the pass of the year to Hardy for 3



Luka Dončić was on the court for the Mavericks Monday — something that was not assured until earlier in the day — and once there made the pass of the season. Trapped in the corner by two defenders, Dončić lept in the air and threw a bullet skip pass to Jaden Hardy for 3.

That is your assist of the year. Even Dončić called it one of his best passes ever.

Dončić led the way with 25 points and six assists and the Mavericks — desperate for a win as they try to climb back into the play-in — beat a shorthanded Pacers team without Tyrese Haliburton or Myles Turner, 127-104. Dončić was cleared to play earlier in the day when the NBA rescinded his 16th technical of the season, which would have triggered an automatic one-game suspension.